Verstappen hails "great rivalry" with Hamilton

Lewis Hamilton (GBR) Mercedes AMG F1 W12 with 1st place and new World Champion, Max Verstappen (NLD) Red Bull Racing RB16B. 12.12.2021. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 22, Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Yas Marina
© XPB 

Newly crowned 2021 Formula 1 world champion Max Verstappen has been talking about his epic battle with Lewis Hamilton over this year's title, and what they said to each other after the Abu Dhabi season finale.

Verstappen won the race - and the title - with a final lap overtake following a controversial safety car restart which was subsequently subject to a protest by the Mercedes team.

It meant that post-race procedures and podium ceremonies were highly charged, but Verstappen insisted that Hamilton had been gracious in defeat despite their disillusionment.

"I was- and the whole team - were going crazy," he told David Coulthard in an interview for sponsor CarNext. "But of course you also have the other side, where they are very disappointed and upset.

"I think what was nice was Lewis immediately came to me [to say] 'Well done, congrats", you know. And I said, 'Thank you very much for an amazing season' because, at the end of the day I think it was.

"Whoever won or came second, we did push each other every single race to the limit with ourselves, but also the car and the whole team.

"It was definitely a great rivalry," he concluded. "But yeah, everyone is very happy that the season is over, to have a bit of a break, because it has been very tense and very tough on everyone."

It hasn't always been so cordial between the paid this season. "Sometimes we did hate each other," Verstappen told the BBC earlier this week. "But that's fine, that's the competitive spirit of both of us. He is an incredible driver.

"You look each other in the eye," he added. "You don't say a lot but you do relate a lot and you really appreciate the fight.

"Emotions run very high. It has done before, throughout the season, so I think that's normal," Verstappen insisted. "What was nice was that immediately after the race, he came up to me. We had our moments throughout the year when we clashed but we really respect each other."

1st place and new World Champion, Max Verstappen (NLD) Red Bull Racing RB16B with Jos Verstappen (NLD). 12.12.2021. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 22, Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Yas Marina

Max's father Jos, himself a former driver in Formula 1 with Benetton and Tyrrell in the 1990s and 2000s, also spoke of his recollections from the moments immediately after the end of Sunday's season finale.

"When I was sitting with Max before he went up to the podium, [Lewis' father] Anthony was there," he said. "He congratulated us, so that was really nice.

"Also, during the season, I had some conversations with him over WhatsApp. He's really nice," he continued "They've won seven titles already so, for them, it is a bit different to when we won the first one, but he's always respectful."

Verstappen had already revealed how he had stormed out of the Red Bull garage when race control declined to order Hamilton to hand over the lead despite cutting a corner on the opening lap.

"I didn't have the feeling it was going to happen and I didn't want the cameras on my face all the time," he explained. It was only when Williams' Nicholas Latifi crashed and triggered a safety car in the final five laps that he returned.

"We were hoping, we were jumping, we were happy, and you know: 'Get this guy out of the way and let them race!'" he said. "I can't express it, it was so emotional.

"Then there was one more lap to go and everybody knows, if Max is behind on the last lap, he will try, whatever happens," he pointed out. "We were just thinking where he would do it and he did it at Turn 5.

"Then Lewis came alongside him into the new fast corner. It was crazy exciting. Tears in my eyes, exciting, nervous, everything came together."

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